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  • Featured ImageDio – Finding the Sacred Heart Captures the Band on the Classic 1986 Tour!

    Finding the Sacred Heart is a Blu-ray Disc release of a concert from Dio's classic 1986 Sacred Heart tour.
    Finding the Sacred Heart is a Blu-ray Disc release of a concert from Dio’s classic 1986 Sacred Heart tour.

     

     

    1986 saw Ronnie James Dio embarking on the tour for the third Dio album, Sacred Heart. Guitarist Vivian Campbell had left the band, and was promptly replaced by former Giuffria guitarist Craig Goldy. What followed is what may have been the Dio band’s most iconic tour and stage show.

    For this tour, the band and the production crew went all out. With a setlist of old and new tracks alike, the group embarked upon a show sure to leave an impact on anyone in attendance. In addition to the crowd getting their share of music, they were treated to an absolute spectacle of a stage show, complete with medieval castle, drawbridge, knights, laser effects, and even a fire-breathing dragon! For fans, THIS was the Dio show to see.

    There had been prior home video releases of the Sacred Heart tour show, but those were generally edited and incomplete shows with questionable audio and video quality. This is an attempt by Eagle Rock to release a complete performance of a tour from the show, with a restored setlist, and audio and video quality.

    For this particular gig, Ronnie James Dio was absolutely at the top of his game, in the wake of the release of the Sacred Heart record. This was the third Dio solo album, so by this point the group, comprised of Ronnie James Dio, Craig Goldy, Jimmy Bain, Claude Schnell, and Vinny Appice, had no shortage of material that they could choose from. Of course, material from these three albums was combined with earlier Ronnie James Dio songs from Rainbow and Black Sabbath, further diversifying things and keeping it all interesting.

    There are countless Dio concerts on DVD and Blu-ray Disc, so it can be a bit daunting to decide which one or ones to purchase. Finding the Sacred Heart is definitely at the top of this list, however. The video quality is not the greatest (likely due to the age and nature of the source material) but the superb audio and the production quality of everything that went on upon the stage makes this a Ronnie James Dio show for the ages, and a fitting tribute to the fallen rocker.

    The visual allure of the stage show is one thing, but the band definitely rocks on this one. You will not find any live Dio home video release more epic than this one. The group is absolutely at the top of their game; though new to the band at the time Craig Goldy plays these songs like he has been a member of the band for years. Claude Schnell, one of the most criminally underrated keyboard players in the business, even gets a chance to solo, making sounds with a keyboard no one else can. But the real highlight is Vinny Appice’s drum solo in the dark, with lightsaber-style drumsticks! If you are not watching the band, you will be watching something on the stage for sure. This is an epic show from a musical and a theatrical standpoint alike.

    Video quality is not the best and does look murky in a number of places, but it is still a step up from standard definition releases. Audio satisfies, which is a must for Dio on Blu-ray. A number of bonus features are included on the disc, including vintage and contemporary interviews, and hilarious backstage footage with the band and crew. The original “Rock and Roll Children” music video is included as well, making this set of bonuses ideal for fans who purchase the disc.

    Dio has countless video releases out there, but this Eagle Rock Blu-ray Disc might be the best one of the bunch. No fan of vintage Dio music will want to be without this epic, classic concert in their collection.

     

     



  • Featured ImageIron Maiden – British Metal Legends Up the Irons with Their New Record, The Book of Souls!

    The Book of Souls is Iron Maiden's sixteenth studio album, and their first double album of studio material.
    The Book of Souls is Iron Maiden’s sixteenth studio album, and their first double album of studio material.

     

     

    New studio releases from Iron Maiden have become less frequent since the band made their comeback with the return of Bruce Dickinson and Adrian Smith to the fold on 2000’s Brave New World. That said, whenever these metal gods have something to offer their fans, said fans are quick to jump on board and see what is on the horizon.

    The Book of Souls is Iron Maiden’s sixteenth studio album total, and their first since 2010’s The Final Frontier. The band’s lineup stands as it has since the “reunion” – Bruce Dickinson, Adrian Smith, Dave Murray, Steve Harris, Janick Gers, and Nicko McBrain. This release is also noteworthy for being the band’s first double album of original studio material.

    Even the biggest of classic rock, hard rock, and heavy metal bands do not seem to release as many albums these days; the reasons tend to vary. That said, as a die-hard Maiden fan, I was all the more eager to see what they would serve up here. “Speed of Light,” the initial digital single, was a bit disappointing and underwhelming, but nonetheless I remained optimistic for the final album release, which is right around the corner at long last. Having finally had a chance to hear the new album, how does it measure up?

    Bruce Dickinson may have had a cancer scare prior to the release of this album, but as soon as you hear the record, any fears that may have been put into your mind regarding how the album would turn out will quickly be proven false. I am pleased to announce that the album, while not perfect, definitely stands as one of Iron Maiden’s most ambitious and grand efforts to date; with a band like this, that is no small claim!

     

    "Speed of Light" was released as an advance digital single prior to the album.
    “Speed of Light” was released as an advance digital single prior to the album.

     

    While I admit I was not keen on “Speed of Light” as a standalone track, it actually helps to add some flavor to the album as a whole, which is one of Maiden’s most diverse records to date. This time around, nearly all of the band members bring their own thing to the table, enabling them to branch out and do their own thing; it makes for some serious musical diversity and progress alike. The band has been going in a more progressive and melodic direction in recent years, as opposed to their older, heavier sound, but this is a more coherent and satisfying work than those last several records.

    The album DOES largely stick to the pattern of a more progressive and melodic album, though there are some unexpected elements to be found here, including song intros that incorporate synths and orchestral/acoustic elements, and some tunes that bring harder and heavier riffs to the table. Often, you will be deceived by a soothingly peaceful intro, only to be hit full force by the onslaught of these heavy metal giants, who are still going strong well into their senior years. Diverse and intriguing songwriting covers everything from the death of Robin Williams (“Tears of a Clown,” NOT a cover of the Smokey Robinson song) to the R-101 airship disaster of 1930 (“Empire of the Clouds”). Several cuts on the album exceed the ten minute mark!

     

    It would not be an Iron Maiden experience without the group's infamous mascot, Eddie, being present in some shape or form!
    It would not be an Iron Maiden experience without the group’s infamous mascot, Eddie, being present in some shape or form!

     

    The album is not perfect, though it probably is my favorite Maiden record since 2000’s Brave New World. While all 90 plus minutes of music are listenable and solid, I cannot help but wonder if the record would have been improved with some streamlining and editing. Fortunately, the band’s more ambitious attitude here works, for the most part, and fans should not be disappointed in that regard.

    More experimental and musically diverse than anything Iron Maiden has recorded since, well, ever, The Book of Souls is a great addition to the Iron Maiden canon that fans are going to love listening to, though I will be the first to admit it may take a few listens for it to grow on you. All members of the band still do their respective jobs surprisingly well in their older age; you will see firsthand why this is a band that remains respected and loved by headbangers all around the world. The Book of Souls stands as a great release from one of England’s longest and most endearing hard rock and heavy metal acts. Naturally, the record comes strongly recommended for all fans!

     

     



  • Featured ImageGuns N Roses Appetite for Democracy – GNR Rocks the Joint in this Blu-ray Release!

    Appetite for Democracy features Guns N Roses during their Las Vegas residency, playing the Joint at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino.
    Appetite for Democracy features Guns N Roses during their Las Vegas residency, playing the Joint at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino.

     

     

    In 2012, Guns N Roses came to Sin City, performing a residency at the Joint inside the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino. Despite various lineup changes over the years and drama galore, the Guns N Roses name is still strong in the world of rock.

    For this release, the band lineup is comprised of Axl Rose, Dizzy Reed, Tommy Stinson, DJ Ashba, Bumblefoot, Richard Fortus, Chris Pitman, and Frank Ferrer. This is the concert that was performed on November 21, 2012. It was given a theatrical release in July of 2014, with the home video release following in November, released on DVD and a hybrid 3D/2D Blu-ray Disc.

    For the Guns N Roses residency at the Hard Rock Hotel, the band brought audiences a powerful eight (!) piece band – three guitarists, two keyboardists, one drummer, one bassist, and of course, Mr. Rose himself. With elaborate on stage production combining customized set pieces and stage shows, the band covers all the old classics, along with cuts from the newest Guns N Roses album, Chinese Democracy (which is not that new anymore) and even some unexpected surprise cover songs!

     

    Tracklist for the concert. The show alone runs nearly three hours!
    Tracklist for the concert. The show alone runs nearly three hours!

     

    Say what you will about Axl Rose; this is a powerful concert experience that any fan of the band, old or new, will definitely want to see and hear for themselves. The concert itself runs nearly three hours in length, making this the longest consecutive concert I have ever seen on home video. That said, the band still does a good job of holding the attention of listeners and viewers throughout it all; no easy task given the lengthy duration!

    The band does not skimp on the theatrics; the stage is customized for the performance, complete with elaborate setup and scantily clad dancing girls for the entertainment of the audience. The band is on fire here; even the aging Rose still sings surprisingly good (no, he does not sound exactly the same that he did two decades ago, but who does?) We get plenty of solos and other unexpected surprises that keep things fresh throughout. Guns N Roses is a band that demands not only good music but a visual aspect to their shows as well; you will be pleased to see that the band has pulled that off beautifully here!

    The Blu-ray Disc features both 2D and 3D viewing modes, though I was only able to view the 2D version for the sake of this review. Picture quality is good overall on the disc, though parts do look a little murky, largely when the stage is bathed in blue light. The audio options get the job done; no major complaints on that end of things.

    Bonus features include a photo slideshow gallery (strangely devoid of music) and interviews with four members of the band, detailing their musical pasts and how they came to be in the band over the years. It is a nice set of supplements and goes great with the concert.

    If you are a Guns N Roses fan and want to see this incarnation of the band doing their thing live in an exciting setting, this is the perfect Blu-ray Disc for you. A solid performance from the band is supported beautifully by an elaborate, action-packed stage show that will never let your attention fade during its lengthy run time. Fans cannot go wrong here. Highly recommended!

     

     



  • Featured ImageMotorhead – Bad Magic Marks the Legendary Metal Act’s 22nd Studio Album!

    Bad Magic is Motorhead's 22nd studio record.
    Bad Magic is Motorhead’s 22nd studio record.

     

     

    For Motorhead it has been a long and interesting journey through the world of classic hard rock and heavy metal. Ex-Hawkwind member Lemmy Kilmister created one of the most iconic rock bands of all time, and the name has persevered for four decades now, spawning countless classic albums and tracks that remain the favorite of many a headbanger.

    Believe it or not, Bad Magic is Motorhead’s 22nd studio album! The band still has a reputation all over the world, amongst fans who love to see the band in concert and hear each and every new release. Sadly, Kilmister’s strenuous lifestyle has caught up with him in recent years; as of the writing of this review he had to cancel a show in Salt Lake City just three or four songs in a few days ago. Having seen him play roughly a week ago, I can confirm that he is not in the best of shape (he definitely sounded weakened near the end of the show I saw) but this fan wishes him a speedy recovery so he can return to the stage and do what he has done best for forty plus years.

    Naturally, fans are clamoring to get their hands on the latest release from Kilmister and company; the current lineup that teams him up with Mikkey Dee and Phil Campbell has stood longer than any other in the band’s history; both musicians are amongst the finest that the group has featured. Is Bad Magic an album worth picking up?

    Bad Magic does not reinvent the wheel in a musical sense, but it gives Motorhead fans just what they are expecting – kick-ass, hard and heavy, gritty rock and roll served up by one of the genre’s most iconic frontmen. The songs on the album are very short and to the point; many of them do not even exceed the three minute mark! Despite this, the group still manages to make for an interesting listening experience. Aside from a ballad in the album’s latter half, most of this album is the gritty hard rock we have come to love from Kilmister and company for so very long now. A surprisingly good cover of the Rolling Stones’ classic “Sympathy for the Devil” makes for an unexpected but no less excellent conclusion to this listening experience; hats off to the band for staying true to the Stones’ original but not blatantly copying it either.

    Okay, as much as I love the album, I will not deny that nothing on here is the creative equal of what they did in their classic incarnation with “Fast” Eddie Clarke and “Philthy Animal” Phil Taylor; those were the band’s golden days. This album is not likely to ever be revered as a classic in the same degree of gems like Overkill, Bomber, and Ace of Spades. Does that mean it is a weak album? By no means whatsoever. Established fans know what to expect from the band at this point, and this album does not throw any punches or take any unexpected twists and turns. That is not necessarily a bad thing.

    There is a very good possibility that Bad Magic will be Motorhead’s final studio album. If that is truly the case, let it be said that Lemmy Kilmister and company have gone out with a bang. Concise and to the point with only a handful of unexpected moments, this is the band playing it safe, and there is nothing wrong with that. For established fans of the group, this one is well worth adding to your collection.

     

     



  • Featured ImageDio Holy Diver Live – Fantastic Live Performance from the Late, Great Ronnie James Dio!

    Holy Diver Live features a concert recorded by the Dio band in 2005.
    Holy Diver Live features a concert recorded by the Dio band in 2005.

     

     

    In 2010, the world lost one of its true heavy metal greats – Ronnie James Dio. Over the years, this rock god unleashed countless classic hard rock hits on the world, with multiple bands. From Rainbow to Black Sabbath, to his eponymous band, there is no heavy metal fan who does not know the Dio name.

    The 2005 tour saw the Dio band doing one of their most unique shows, combining classic hits from all of Ronnie James Dio’s past bands with a full performance of the classic 1983 Holy Diver LP. For these shows, the lineup teamed Ronnie James Dio with guitarist Doug Aldrich (Whitesnake, Burning Rain, Raiding the Rock Vault), keyboardist Scott Warren (Heaven and Hell, Keel, Hellion), bassist Rudy Sarzo (Quiet Riot, Whitesnake, Blue Oyster Cult) and drummer Simon Wright (AC/DC, Hellion, Operation: Mindcrime). While none these players aside from Mr. Dio himself appeared on the original Holy Diver record, no one can deny that they are all players that have left a tremendous mark on the hard rock and heavy metal world, and are more than worthy of playing alongside one of the genre’s greatest voices.

    This concert was recorded in 2005, the year after Dio released Master of the Moon, which would ultimately be the final studio album released under the Dio band name. Following this live show, the band would go on a hiatus (which became permanent due to Ronnie James Dio’s death in 2010) to reform the Dio-era Black Sabbath lineup under the name Heaven and Hell. Following Dio’s passing, many of these musicians went on to play in the Dio Disciples band, keeping these iconic heavy metal songs alive for fans all over the world.

    The concert featured on this disc was released as a two CD set, and as a DVD/Blu-ray Disc. Audio versions of the concert have the tracks arranged with all of the Holy Diver songs on one disc and the additional tracks on the other, whereas the video versions have those tracks in the middle, bookended by the other songs.

     

    Tracklist for the concert.
    Tracklist for the concert.

     

    What is featured on here more or less marks the end of the Dio band, due to Ronnie James Dio leaving to form Heaven and Hell with his old Black Sabbath bandmates not long after. The tracklist features the whole Holy Diver album plus other classics from the Dio band, and early Ronnie James Dio bands like Black Sabbath and Rainbow. Although members of this lineup played on the later Dio LPs, it is interesting to note that there is no song here that was released after 1984’s The Last in Line, making this album something of a tribute to Dio’s early years, but performed with his then current band.

    The actual performance itself is great; you are going to see Ronnie James Dio alongside some of the best musicians he ever got to perform with. If you are at all a Dio fan, the songs themselves require no introduction; you have already heard them countless times on their respective studio albums. This is a solid performance with no dull moments and a great variety of older Dio and pre-Dio songs. I personally wish they would have included a few of the cuts from the later studio albums that these musicians actually performed on, but that is a very minor complaint. Aldrich’s guitar solo and Wright’s drum solo are amongst the true highlights here, but there is never any real “down time.” We even get a humorous Star Wars-esque “crawl text” sequence explaining how the “Disco Empire” has been defeated by the “Dio Armada!” It was great to see this version of the Dio band paying homage to one of the most classic of all Dio records, and throw in some other classics for good measure.

    The video quality is great throughout the disc, aside from the footage that was taken from the “stage right” camera spanning the stage; those shots came out looking very murky and unattractive. But aside from that one hiccup, the rest of the disc looks good. Multiple audio options are offered, and the disc has the superb aural quality one would want to have on a Dio Blu-ray release. As a bonus feature, a brief (about 12 minutes) interview with the band is included, featuring some entertaining backstage footage.

    Ronnie James Dio’s music will live forever, and this is a great look at one of the Dio band’s final concerts, with one of its best lineups ever. If you are at all a fan of classic hard rock or heavy metal, whether or not you should add this Blu-ray Disc to your collection is a no-brainer. Highly recommended release!